Friday, 30 November 2007

Egypt: Nefertiti plate

I was given this metal plate by an Egyptian government delegation. It is Queen Nefertiti based on the famous statue in the Egyptian Museum in Berlin, which I saw last time I was there.

This marvellous sculpture was discovered by German archaeologists in 1912. The crafty Krauts recorded the find as something unimportant, buried the details of it in pages of tedious paperwork and fooled the Egyptians (and indeed the French, who ran the Antiquities Department at that time) in to letting it go to Berlin where it has been displayed ever since. Now the Egyptians want it back for their splendid new museum near the Pyramids which is due to open in 2012 (which is why they are dragging some of the Tutenkhamun stuff around the world to raise money for the museum). The German's claim it is too fragile to travel. Didn't stop them in 1912, though!

Not such a yummy mummy

Queen Nefertiti herself is entombed in tomb KV35 in the Valley of the Kings but her mummy, which has been recently, if somewhat tentatively, identified, was x-rayed a few years ago. The Discovery Channel sent these x-rays to the University of Nottingham who reconstructed the face of the woman using the same forensic techniques they use to identify bodies for the police.

The Nottingham reconstruction

Crucially, they were not told who the woman might be and their reconstruction showed amazing similarities to the sculpture and, particularly, to an earlier sculpture from the same studio which is less idealised and is more likely to have been done from life. This earler sculpture belonged to Adolf Hitler and for many years was owned by a private collector.

The idealised sculpture from Berlin

Hitler's more naturalistic sculpture - very close to the Nottingham picture

Nefertiti's beauty has inspired many artists over the years from this rather peculiar illustration to this rather more clever photograph.


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